Skilled advocacy is critical to ensure that the accused have meaningful access to justice
Accused of rape, a 15-year old boy was arrested.. without any evidence during his arrest. Advocate Bimala Yadav and other lawyers from the International Legal Foundation (ILF) Nepal came to his rescue and were successful in his release with the verdict of Nepal’s highest court of justice, the Supreme Court.
But it was far from easy to get the boy’s release from police custody.
On the next court date, advocate Bimala argued that she needed to have the evidence of the charges against her client in order to challenge the lawfulness of his continued detention. However, the court refused to grant the request, ruling that the case was still under investigation by the police. Advocate Bimala then filed a subsequent appeal. Before the case could be heard, the prosecutor filed charges, and, on the same day, provided defense counsel with a copy of the evidence against her client.
Advocate Bimala appealed the case to the Patan Appellate Court, but they denied the motion and affirmed the district court’s decision. ILF Nepal then made an appeal to the Supreme Court, arguing that the denial of access to the evidence violated the right to justice guaranteed by Article 20 of the Constitution of Nepal, and the Right to a Fair Trial guaranteed by Article 20(9). The appeal was successful and the boy was released.
As a result of continuous efforts from ILF, it won a landmark decision in the Supreme Court of Nepal involving the fundamental right of accused persons to receive pre-trial access to the accusations and evidence that exist against them. Accepting ILF Nepal’s argument that lower courts were likely to continue to deny the accused’s constitutional right to prompt access to information about the charge against him or her, the Supreme Court issued an order on January 27, 2017, instructing courts to provide accused persons with access to the evidence against them during the police investigation stage of the criminal process.
“The ILF is enormously proud of the achievements in obtaining this precedent-setting order from the Supreme Court, and thanks to GF’s continuous support to ILF,” said advocate Bimala. She further added that skilled advocacy is critical to ensure that the accused have meaningful access to justice.
ILF has a long track record in Nepal of judicial training and outreach activities aimed at strengthening due process protections and raising awareness of communities of justice system norms. In 2016, ILF Nepal provided legal representation to 1,310 clients accused of crimes, including 83 women, 66 children, and two third-gender individuals, exceeding its target to provide legal representation to 1,000 new clients by 31 per cent. The NGO works in 12 districts – Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, Kavre, Dhanusa, Mahottari, Makwanpur, Parsa, Chitwan, Banke, Bardiya and Kanchanpur.